A Faithful Man

 

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A beguiling, very French entertainment in need of a stronger ending.

 
Faithful Man, A  

Louis Garrel and Lily-Rose Depp

 

In 2015, the French actor Louis Garrel directed his first feature, Two Friends, but that was not released here. Nevertheless, now that we can see its follow-up it is self-evident that Garrel is an exceedingly fluent filmmaker. It can also be said that with A Faithful Man, originally announced under its French title L'Homme Fidèle, he has taken some useful hints from his father, the director Philippe Garrel. As recently as 2018, we saw Lover for a Day created by Philippe Garrel as a feature lasting 75 minutes and for which he chose as co-writer the veteran Jean-Claude Carrière. Now we find Louis also working with Carrière, and once again we have a film coming in at an hour and a quarter.

 

A Faithful Man seeks to be an engaging entertainment rather than anything more ambitious, but on its chosen level it offers much pleasure - indeed it is only its ending that lets it down. The story takes place in Paris as attractively shot in colour and 'Scope by Irina Lubtchansky following in the footsteps of her late father, William. Garrel appears in the central role of Abel and, in a quintessentially French film which attains a nice balance between the pleasing images and a frequent use of voice-overs, he is the main narrator although two other characters, Marianne (Laetitia Casta, Garrel's wife) and Eve (Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis) also contribute in this way.

 

Admirably succinct and fast moving, A Faithful Man gets going with a telling scene in which Marianne, Abel's partner, informs him that she is pregnant but immediately adds that he is not the father of the child and that she is about to marry the man who is, Abel's friend Paul. The movie then moves on eight years and shows how on Paul's sudden death Abel hopes to win her back. He senses that this could happen, but not everybody welcomes the idea: Paul's younger sister, Eve, had always fantasised about marrying him and is now of an age when her dream is no longer an impossibility and Marianne's young son (Joseph Engel) is an 8-year-old boy of unusual precocity with a mind of his own. But just what is his aim in telling Abel that his father had not met a natural death but had been poisoned by Eve?

 

This is a plot which could have been handled in a knowingly melodramatic manner but Garrel has described his film as a comedy of manners. That, indeed, is how it plays with its offbeat sense of mischief benefiting   from a precise sense of tone emanating from both the uniformly excellent cast and from composer Philippe Sarde while the admirably adroit editing of Joëlle Hache adds to the appeal. It is indeed an unusual and attractive entertainment, but one does feel that the various plot lines should lead to a more effective conclusion if it is to satisfy fully. How sad then that, when it comes to winding up, one is left feeling that nobody could think of a neat and telling way to end it. Inevitably, this yields to an ultimate sense of disappointment, but until that late point there is a lot to enjoy.

 

Original title: L'Homme Fidele.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Louis Garrel, Laetitia Casta, Lily-Rose Depp, Joseph Engel. Dali Benssalah, Kiara Carrière, Diane Courseille, Vladislav Galard, Bakary Sangaré.

 

Dir Louis Garrel, Pro Pascal Caucheteux, Screenplay Jean-Claude Carrière and Louis Garrel with Florence Seyvos, Ph Irina Lubtchansky, Art Dir Jean Rabasse, Ed Joëlle Hache, Music Philippe Sarde, Costumes Barbara Loison.

 

Why Not Productions/Canal+/Cine+-Cinefile.
97 mins. France. 2018. Rel: 23 August 2019. Cert. 15.